South Florida ranks at the top of the list for many things: warm weather, luxury car sales, where to be a dog -- and so on. But for availability of vegetarian and vegan-friendly cuisine? Lower. Much lower.
According to PETA, the city that tops that list is New York. Last week, with some well-earned pomp and circumstance, PETA reps joined by actor Alan Cumming presented the Big Apple city council with a sculpture of the Manhattan skyline ... carved entirely out of vegetables. Seriously.
So when will we be gifted a Las Olas Boulevard built out of beets? With South Florida's size and significance, why do we still fall to the bottom of the beanstalk when it comes to veg-friendly cuisine? We asked PETA what we could do to be a little more like NYC in this department.
"We recognized NYC this year for its really big culinary variety," says Laura Cascada, PETA Campaign Manager. "They have about 140 vegetarian restaurants and countless other vegetarian-friendly establishments -- lots of delicious and cruelty free, plant-based fare. We really encourage all cities to do what New York is doing and incorporate veg-friendly dishes into their already existing options."
Criteria for the annual award includes nominations by PETA members, plus input from the organization's traveling campaigners.
"Thousands of people flock to New York every year just to try out the great food. Vegetarian options in the city are flourishing because of that," Cascada adds. "These restaurants provide employment for thousands of people so it's really an economic boost to the city. It's something many of the residents and the city council and Alan Cumming, who celebrated with us -- they're all very proud of."
Lots of cities are known for veg-friendly cuisine, says Cascada -- San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC. But NYC got their attention in particular this year.
"You can go to Candle 79 and get gourmet, pumpkin seed encrusted tempeh, or you can go to Baby Cakes and get vegan crumb cake. They have the first vegetarian public school and a new shop dedicated to nut cheeses -- these kinds of treasures really made NYC stand out this year."
The competition happens annually -- last year's winner was Austin, Texas. Portland, Ore. Chicago, Ill.; Seattle, Wa. all made it pretty high up on PETA's list. Unsurprisingly, no South Florida city has never made the cut.
"Going vegan, trying vegan is really the best thing people can do for the environment and their own health. You don't have to live in NYC to do that. Local restaurants are adding great vegan options all the time. Cities that aspire to be like NYC should be adding vegan options to restaurant menus and making it a more compassionate place to eat."
So when will Fort Lauderdale or Miami make the grade? Thanks to spots like Green Bar Kitchen, Atlas Meat-Free Deli, and Sublime, let's hope it's sooner than later.